McGill v. Armour - 52 U.S. 142 (1850)
U.S. Supreme Court
McGill v. Armour, 52 U.S. 11 How. 142 142 (1850)
McGill v. Armour
52 U.S. (11 How.) 142
Where a creditor brought an action against an executrix in the Circuit Court of the United States for Louisiana, and the petition only averred that the petitioner was shown to be a creditor by the accounts in the state court which had jurisdiction over the estates of deceased persons, and then proceeded to charge the executrix with a devastavit, and exceptions were taken to the petition as insufficient, these exceptions must be sustained.
The petition should have gone on to allege further proceedings in the state court analogous to a judgment at common law as a foundation of a claim for a judgment against the executrix de bonis propriis, suggesting a devastavit.
The laws of Louisiana provide for compelling the executrix to file a tableau of distribution, which is a necessary and preliminary step towards holding the executrix personally responsible. The petition, not having averred this, was defective, and the exceptions must be sustained.
As the decision turned upon a question of pleading, it is proper to insert the petition, and the exceptions which were taken to it, by way of demurrer.
The petition was as follows.
"To the Honorable the Judges of the Circuit Court of the United States held in and for the District of Louisiana, the petition of Penelope McGill respectfully shows: "
"That she is a resident and citizen of the State of Mississippi."
"That Josephine Hurd Armour is a citizen of the State of Louisiana, resident in New Orleans. "
"That Josephine Hurd Armour is indebted to and became liable to pay to your petitioner the sum of $7,510.66, with eight percent per annum interest thereon, from and after 6 June, 1843, till paid, in the manner following, to-wit:"
"On or about 1 August, 1843, James Armour died indebted to your petitioner in the sum of $7,510.66, with interest, as above stated, the items of which debt are set forth in the papers annexed and marked A and B."
"That before his death James Armour promised in writing to pay eight percent per annum interest on the funds which petitioner left in his hands -- that is, on the sum of $7,510.66, until their payment."
"That at his death, James Armour left a will in which he appointed Josephine H. Armour the executrix of the said will and dispensed with the necessity of requiring her to give security."
"That on 11 September, 1843, she filed her petition in the Probate Court of the Parish of Orleans praying the appointment of executrix of the last will of James Armour, on which said day she was appointed, and took the oath required by law, and on 16 September, 1843, she was fully authorized to do all acts as executrix of the will of James Armour and as such took possession of all the property of said James Armour."
"That James Armour, at the time of his death, owned property in New Orleans which was appraised at $70,058.61, and in the Parish of Jefferson he owned property which was appraised at $800, all of which came into the hands of said Mrs. Josephine H. Armour as the property of James Armour, deceased."
"That she has used for her own benefit all of said property except as herein below stated, and has appropriated no portion thereof to the payment of the debts of James Armour."
"That among the property of the said succession of James Armour were found the following described notes: two notes of John Graham, each for $629.06, due on 1 August, 1842 and 1843, payable to and endorsed by Buchanan, Hagand & Co.; a note of Dougall McCall for $3,803.90, due 7 June, 1841; three notes of C. A. Warfield, for $619.67 each, due two, four, and six months after 3 May, 1841; a note of J. K. Patterson for $550, due on 1 November, 1841; a check of James Pardon, Brother & Co., on the City Bank of New Orleans for $100; another check of the same drawers, on the Commercial Bank of New Orleans for $120; a due bill of William Christie for $250; a draft of Francis D. Newcomb, on Rice Garland, for $75; four promissory notes of Francis D.
Newcomb, all dated 15 December, 1842, each for $954.76, due at six, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four months after date. All of which several debts were due to James Armour at the time of his death, and have since become worthless and prescribed by means of the negligence of said Mrs. Armour; and all said claims bore interest at the rate of eight percent per annum, from their dates till paid."
"That by means of said negligence, she has made herself liable to the creditors of the said James Armour for the amount of all said claims, $11,760 and interest at ten percent from the several dates above mentioned until payment."
"That she received and applied to her own use the family residence of James Armour, valued at $15,000; she sold two lots on Camp Street, near Felicity Road, worth $600; the property in the Parish of Jefferson worth $800; the slaves Sampson, Betsy and child, Emily, Esther and child, Sarah, and Calvin, worth by appraisement $2,750; also, the household furniture and plate, carriage &c., valued at $1,000, making $20,150; all of which she used for her own benefit, and did not pay to the creditors of James Armour any portion of the proceeds, although all said property belonged to James Armour."
"That the said Mrs. Armour owed said succession of James Armour $411.35, at the time of his death. She collected from the various debtors of the estate of James Armour the various sums which are stated in the annexed inventory to be due by the persons therein named, and not hereinbefore set forth, which said several debts amount to fifty thousand dollars."
"That, by receiving the property enumerated in said inventory, as the executrix of her husband's will, she became bound to use all due diligence in collecting the property of said James Armour; and also became bound to apply all the proceeds to the satisfaction of the debts of James Armour."
"That the said property was more than sufficient to pay all the debts of said James Armour, if the said Mrs. Josephine H. Armour had used due diligence in collecting and in paying over the proceeds of the property of said estate."
"That, on 13 December, 1843, the said Mrs. Josephine H. Armour filed, in the Probate Court of the Parish of Orleans, a provisional account of the affairs of the said succession, with which she filed a statement of all the creditors of said estate, by which it appears that James Armour owed only forty thousand dollars, to pay which Mrs. Armour had the sum of seventy-one thousand dollars."
"That, in the said list of creditors, your petitioner is named and acknowledged to be a creditor of said succession of James Armour, for the sum sued for herein. "
"That, upon opposition made to the said account and list of creditors, it was adjudged that the said estate of Armour owed to your petitioner the said sum of money, as also that the debts of the succession amounted to forty thousand dollars."
"That by means of the neglect and the misapplication of the funds of said succession, Mrs. Josephine Hurd Armour has become liable to pay the said debt to your petitioner, and also to pay damages to the amount of eight thousand dollars, and eight percent per annum interest from 6 June, 1843, till paid."
"The premises considered, petitioner prays that the said Josephine Hurd Armour be cited, and, after due proceedings, that she be condemned to pay your petitioner the sum of $7,510.66, with eight percent per annum interest from 6 June, 1843, and damages as above stated. Petitioner prays for a trial by jury and for general relief in the premises."
"STOCKTON & STEELE, Attorneys for Plaintiff"
In March, 1848, the defendant filed the following exceptions and answer.
"And the said Penelope McGill by her attorneys, comes into court and, pursuant to the rules and practice in this Honorable Court, files now this her exception and answer to said petition."
"She excepts to said petition and prays that the same may be dismissed without further answer, for these reasons:"
"First. The said petition, and the matters and things therein contained, are not good and sufficient in law to charge this defendant and show no cause of action against her."
"Second. The said petition is insufficient for the reason that all parties interested in the further settlement of said accounts therein referred to are not made parties to said petition, and the defendant cannot be called upon by each creditor of the testator to render an account of her actings and doings."
"Third. The said defendant excepts to the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, sitting as a court of common law, to determine and adjudge the matters involved in said petition, and says that the same are only cognizable in chancery and according to the form of proceedings in equity."
"And if the said exceptions should be overruled and the said defendant be required to make further answer unto said petition, then for answer to the same she states:"
"That she denies generally and specially each and all of the allegations in said petition contained except such as are hereinafter admitted. She admits that she was appointed the
executrix of the last will and testament of her deceased husband, James Armour; that she duly qualified as executrix as aforesaid, and took upon herself the administration of said estate."
"She further states that she has endeavored faithfully and honestly to discharge her duties as executrix, and avers that in all things she has administered the effects of said estate according to law, that she made full, true, and perfect inventory of the property of said succession and all proper diligence in collecting the debts of said succession, disposed of the property thereof under and in obedience to the order of court, made reports of her actings and doings, and presented formal tableaux of distribution, which were duly approved and homologated by the Probate Court of the Parish of Orleans, in which such matters were properly cognizable."
"The said defendant further states that the said succession of James Armour is and was at the death of the testator utterly insolvent, and that she is a creditor of said estate, recognized as such by the proper tribunal, and entitled to be paid before petitioner, and although so recognized for a large amount, the assets are wholly insufficient to discharge the said claim, besides many other ordinary creditors whose claims are equally as meritorious as the petitioner's."
"Wherefore defendant prays for trial by jury, and that judgment be rendered against petitioner, and she will ever pray &c."
"W. C. MICOU"
In May, 1848, the circuit court, after argument, sustained the exceptions and dismissed the suit at the plaintiff's costs. The plaintiff sued out a writ of error, and brought the case up to this Court.